Poe’s dark and macabre stories give the readers a sense of tension, and uneasiness, but they provide insight into his cruel life. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” discusses Poe’s tormenting feelings, and delves within his affliction that is alcoholism, and how that disease creates a monster inside of him. Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart” illustrates the extent of the main character’s insanity. These stories both explain and run parallel to Poe’s life and displays feelings of guilt, and how symbolism gives us insight into the story and his life.
The saddening themes shown ill be further explained to emphasise how they relate to his life, and similar or different the connections may be. One of the major themes in Poe’s stories is guilt, Poe’s life was infuriating and often very depressing. Poe tied those feelings to his stories, “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat” perfectly depict this theme of guilt similarly. “The Tell Tale Heart” expresses the theme of guilt at the end of the story. The narrator explains “It grew louder –louder –louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! –no,no! They heard! -they suspected! (Poe paragraph 9).
This quote explains the narrator’s conflicting feelings of guilt for killing the old man, despite his insanity. In “The Black Cat” guilt because of the narrator’s actions is also shown, due to the narrator’s “gin-nurtured” behaviour he cut out cat’s eye, the guilt he felt was immense, the narrator laments “I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty,” (Poe paragraph 8). The guilt the narrators feel are extremely similar, they both committed a deplorable deed to someone or something they once loved, but re now vexed by, and the weight of the deed is too much to bare.
In Poe’s life he developed an affliction called “survivor’s guilt”, this is developed when someone is the only surviving member of the family or group and they ultimately feel responsible. Poe watched his loved ones’ die year, after year, yet he did not meet death, so inadvertently felt responsible. Poe portrays this in his stories, but the narrator’s actually commit the deed which reflects what he is feeling, and what he feels responsible for. Although the theme of guilt presented throughout the story is similar, they also have differences in ow the guilt affects the narrator.
In “The Black Cat” Poe feels guilt for carving out the eye of the cat, killing the cat, and killing his wife, yet he does not confess to the crime, the body of his wife is merely found. On the other hand, in “The Tell Tale Heart” the narrator confesses his deed due to the guilt of murdering that man. The narrator explains “Villains! I shrieked, ‘dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! Here, here! –It is the beating of his hideous heart! ” (Poe paragraph 10). Perhaps Poe wanted to depict the severity of his alcoholism and how lcoholism made him continue his actions no matter how guilty he felt.
Poe was maybe trying to explain that his alcoholism caused him to do worse things rather than his mental issues. In “The Black Cat” upon the finding of his wife’s corpse, the narrator explains “.. sat the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder” (Poe paragraph 33). The cat representing his alcoholism “seduced” him into committing the murder. Symbolism is also an extremely important and prevalent theme throughout his stories, Poe used symbolism to tie in his life to his often twisted and supernatural stories.
In both stories “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat” Poe uses eyes as a symbol; in both stories the eyes caused him to feel great discomfort, and even led the narrators’ to homicide. In “The Black Cat” the narrator soon becomes disturbed by his cat, specifically his eye. When the narrator’s murder of his wife is revealed, the narrator explains ” Upon its head, with red extended mouth and solitary eye of fire, sat the hideous beast. ” (Poe paragraph 33). This expresses how the cat’s eye will forever torment the speaker and reveal the truth.
Similarly in “The Tell Tale Heart” the rotagonist is disquieted by an old man’s eye and conclusively leads to the murder of the old man. The speaker clarified ” He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees –very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever. ” (Poe paragraph 2). The narrator truly despised the eye, and the eye only. Eyes are said to be “the windows to the soul”, and both of these stories show Poe’s obsession or diversion to eyes.
This is because the ear of eyes symbolize Poe’s fear of confronting his problems, or allowing other people to reveal his illnesses or troubles. The fear of eyes in his stories symbolize how he tried to run away from his problems through alcohol abuse or otherwise. Even though the two stories have many similarities in symbolism, there are differences in how the symbolism is used or what it represents. Eyes reveal what the person does not want to admit to themselves so they immediately want to run away, or in these cases exterminate them.
In “The Tell Tale Heart” the narrator explains “True! nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? ” (Poe paragraph 1). The speaker does not want to admit his obvious insanity despite the clear signs shown in this passage and throughout the story. This is exactly why he wants to kill the old man, he feels as if that eye is symbolically revealing his insanity to the world.
Conversely, in “The Black Cat” the narrator is afraid the eye will reveal something entirely different, the author depicts ” The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen- knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity” (Poe paragraph 7).
The protagonist did this because the eye revealed or symbolized the narrator’s fear of having his “demon-like” behaviour being brought to light, and maybe even symbolizing his future crimes that he knows he is able to commit. As expressed, Edgar Allen Poe lived a life that was traumatic, harrowing, and disappointing. Poe used his stories to symbolize his life and the guilt he felt, he turned those feelings into dark stories whose characters mirrored his strife. Poe attempted to escape his true identity and feelings, just like his characters attempted to do in ore gruesome ways.
The guilt Poe felt was translated to the characters of “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat”, but his character’s guilt caused them to confess in one case, and attempt to hide in another. Poe felt an extreme amount of guilt for everything that occurred in his life, from his family’s death to his failure at being a writer. Yet he still continued to write despite his lack of success, one must reevaluate themselves during a time of frustration and loss of hope, Poe endured tragedy after tragedy, and was able to continue; if he was able to, why not you?